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City emerges as new battleground on voting rights

Votoing rights testedWhen the movie "Urban Cowboy" made this refinery town famous in 1980, the honkytonk Gilley's was booming and wannabe cowpokes from the white Houston suburbs flocked here to drink and dance. Houston was the big city, but Pasadena was for kicks.

Today Pasadena is a mostly working-class Hispanic suburb that looks as hard-ridden in some pockets as the mechanical bull that bucked John Travolta. Gilley's burned down years ago. Now a federal lawsuit accuses the town's white councilmembers of leading a discriminatory plan to turn back the clock.


Selling 'Peace Groups' on US-Led Wars

American warsSince the anti-war protests on Vietnam, the U.S. government has made "perception management" of the American people a high priority, feeding them a steady diet of propaganda about foreign crises, even getting "peace groups" to buy into "pro-democracy" wars.

"War is peace" double-speak has become commonplace these days. And, the more astute foreign policy journalists and commentators are beginning to realize the extent of how "liberal interventionists" work in sync with neocon warhawks to produce and sustain a perpetual state of U.S. war.


Jeb Bush resigns from company that cashed in on Obamacare

Jeb BushJeb Bush’s presidential ambitions are looking healthier now that he’s dropped Obamacare.

Bush announced Wednesday he would resign from Tenet Healthcare Corp.’s board of directors, effective Dec. 31.

It’s a significant move because Tenet CEO Trevor Fetter has said Obamacare swelled the ranks of people seeking care at the company’s hospitals, driving revenue and directly profiting Bush, according to The Los Angeles Times.


U.S. Pays $3.2 Million to American Alan Gross Held Five Years by Cuba

Alan GrossAlan Gross, the American subcontractor freed by Cuba last week as the U.S. moved to normalize relations with the island nation, will receive $3.2 million from the federal government as part of a settlement deal, a USAID official confirmed Wednesday.

Gross was imprisoned for five years, accused of subverting the Cuban government after providing Internet and other communications equipment to the Jewish community in the communist country.


GOP probe fails to link IRS scandal to White House

Darrell IssaA House Republican investigation faults senior IRS officials in the mistreatment of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status, but could find no link to the White House, according to a report released Tuesday.

The probe isn't over, although investigators have reviewed 1.3 million pages of documents and interviewed 52 officials. The report, however, marks the end of Rep. Darrell Issa's tenure leading the investigation.


President Obama commutes 8 sentences and grants 12 pardons

Obama pardonsPresident Obama commuted the sentences of eight drug offenders Wednesday and pardoned 12 federal offenders.  The drug offenders had received sentences ranging from 188 months or almost 16 years to life. They will now be released in 2015.

The White House announced the president's action in a news release. The president traditionally marks the Christmas season with acts of clemency.


US co-opted Cuba's hip-hop scene to spark change

Cuba hip hop groups infiltratedFor more than two years, a U.S. agency secretly infiltrated Cuba's underground hip-hop movement, recruiting unwitting rappers to spark a youth movement against the government, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The idea was to use Cuban musicians "to break the information blockade" and build a network of young people seeking "social change," documents show. But the operation was amateurish and profoundly unsuccessful.

On at least six occasions, Cuban authorities detained or interrogated people involved in the program; they also confiscated computer hardware, and in some cases it contained information that jeopardized Cubans who likely had no idea they were caught up in a clandestine U.S. operation. Still, contractors working for the U.S. Agency for International Development kept putting themselves and their targets at risk, the AP investigation found.


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